In the college football's final full weekend of action – PFF highlights some pivotal matchups not only in terms of postseason play, but also in terms of NFL draft stock for a bevy of players all across the field. The storied Michigan-Ohio State rivalry kicks off a Saturday slate full of next-level talented players before the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn decides the SEC West and two star running backs headline the Stanford-Notre Dame matchup.
Ohio State @ Michigan
When Ohio State is on offense:
- Michigan’s Maurice Hurst has been the highest graded overall defensive player for most of the season, but will likely face his toughest challenge on Saturday. Hurst ranks sixth among draft-eligible defensive interior players in run stop percentage, and leads the country in pass-rush productivity.
- Ohio State center Billy Price has made a seamless transition from right guard to center this year, highlighted by his work in pass protection. He still has yet to give up a sack, and has surrendered just two quarterback hits.
- Getting pressure on Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is paramount to Michigan’s chances on Saturday. In a clean pocket this year, Barrett has a passer rating of 131.8 with 30 touchdowns and just five interceptions, but when the rush affects him his passer rating drops to 58.3, and he has posted just two touchdowns with two interceptions. With 62 total pressures surrendered(nine sacks), the offensive line of the Buckeyes ranks first in the Big Ten in pass blocking efficiency, while Michigan is second in the conference in total pressures (224).
- Cornerback play has certainly been a strength for the Wolverines this year. David Long ranks second nationally among cornerbacks with at least 20 throws into their coverage with a passer rating against of just 19.4, as he has allowed just 38.5 percent of passes into his coverage to be completed. Lavert Hill sits just behind his teammate in fourth (25.2), as he has defended a total of nine passes while giving up just 10 receptions on 26 throws into his coverage.
When Michigan is on offense:
- The Ohio State defensive line has been one of the most productive pass-rushing units in the country this year, as six players have tallied double-digit total pressures. Edge defender Nick Bosa leads the way with five sacks, eight hits and 28 hurries, while Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard both have 20-plus pressures to their names as well.
- Michigan left tackle Mason Cole ranks fifth in the Big Ten in pass blocking efficiency (two sacks, three hits allowed), while right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty has surrendered 16 pressures on just 174 reps, ranking him 27th in the conference.
Alabama @ Auburn
When Alabama is on offense:
- The Alabama offensive line has been excellent across the board and right tackle Matt Womack is the only starter to allow more than 10 pressures on the season. He’ll see plenty of Auburn edge defender Jeff Holland who has broken out with 49 pressures on only 249 rushes this year, good for a strong pass rush productivity of 15.8.
- Alabama WR Calvin Ridley has first-round potential and his matchup with Auburn CB Carlton Davis will be one to watch. Ridley has the deep speed to stretch the defense, while Davis has allowed only 45 percent of targets to be completed into his coverage.
When Auburn is on offense:
- Keep a close eye on the trenches as Auburn guard Braden Smith is one of the nation’s best and he’ll face his toughest challenge against the Alabama defensive front. Smith is outstanding in the run game as his 87.5 run-blocking grade ranks fourth in the country, while Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne ranks 22nd among interior defensive linemen with an 84.1 grade against the run.
- LB Rashaan Evans is the jack of all trades for the Alabama defense, lining up in the middle and creating pressure off the edge at times. He has 18 pressures on the season (two sacks, eight QB hits, eight hurries), while ranking second on the team with 22 stops. Evans has top-round potential and his athleticism and ability to make plays all over the field will be a big key for the Alabama defense.
Notre Dame @ Stanford
When Notre Dame is on offense:
- Notre Dame features one of the nation’s best offensive lines, led by All-American candidates OT Mike McGlinchey and G Quenton Nelson. They are dominant run-blockers and both have first-round potential. Nelson leads all guards with a 93.2 overall grade.
- Running back Josh Adams has seen his fair share of success on big plays, running behind his strong offensive line. Adams ranks third in the nation with 802 rushing yards coming on breakaway runs of 15-plus yards. He trails only San Diego State's Rashaad Penny and the nation's leader in such yards, Stanford's Bryce Love.
When Stanford is on offense:
- Stanford RB Bryce Love is one of the premier big play threats in the country. Love has forced 63 missed tackles as a runner this season and his elusive rating of 155.6 ranks No. 1 among all draft-eligible running backs. Those missed tackles often lead to long runs for Love as 69.6 percent of his yardage on the season came on big play runs of 15 yards or more. Love’s 29 runs this season of 15 or more yards also ranks first among all draft-eligible running backs.
- Notre Dame S/LB Drue Tranquill has broken out this season and his 30 stops are tied for second on the team. The stop leader with 47 is LB Te’von Coney who has solidified the middle of the Irish defense this Fall. He is one of the nation’s best tacklers with only nine misses on 165 career attempts.